Crown The Brown Exclusive : Richa Moorjani
Crown The Brown Exclusive: Richa Moorjani. Never Have I Ever Star, Richa Shukla Moorjani made everyone swoon with her character Kamala on the show! Richa has an exceptional stage and on-screen presence from dance to acting.
She grew up with a passion for the arts from ballet to kathak. Richa went on to explore the entertainment industry.
Richa landed roles in movies such as Mark at the Movies, Big Time Rush, guest appearance on the Mindy Project and NCIS: Los Angeles. She has always worked hard towards showcasing representation.
In 2019. Richa had the amazing opportunity to create change in the industry once she got cast as Kamala on Mindy Kaling‘s Netflix series Never Have I Ever. We wanted to know more about her experience and journey in the entertainment industry. This is what Richa shared with us!
You have had a love for the arts such as acting and dancing from a young age. Tell us more about your journey and how it all started.
It all started with growing up in a household that was full of music, culture and appreciation for the arts. My parents are both musicians. With a Bollywood music band they’ve been performing with since they were in college in Northern California. I started learning Kathak (Indian Classical Dance) at the age of 5.
Learning dance and being surrounded by artists led me to develop a passion for performing and acting very early in life. I did plays throughout my school years. Minored in Theatre & Dance at UC Davis before making the move to LA 8 years ago. Since then, it’s been an incredible journey with many highs and lows. I’m so unbelievably grateful to be where I am today.
Who or what inspired your love for the arts?
My parents. Seeing them getting together and jamming every weekend with their band mates when I was a young girl, watching them rock every stage they performed on was incredibly inspiring to me.
The songs they played came from Hindi films, I became enamored by Bollywood. I would fantasize about one day being in Indian films myself. I’ve also always had a very big imagination and love for storytelling.
You are well-known for your character, Kamala on Never Have I Ever which has recently premiered on Netflix. What was the experience like being on set and working with such a diverse and sensational cast?
It was a dream come true. Growing up in this country and feeling the dichotomy between my culture and western media. I never imagined that I would one day be on a major American TV series with a leading cast of South Asians and other actors of diverse backgrounds.
I’m so thankful to have worked on a show with such a talented and extraordinary group of people who I have learned so much from. As an artist, it is my mission to tell stories that highlight the very wide array of South Asian experiences in and outside of the Diaspora. This is just the start.
Your character has a very relatable story regarding arranged marriage. Many girls relate to this. What are your thoughts on arranged marriages?
I want to acknowledge that I come from a place of privilege when it comes to this subject. It’s a bit difficult for me to answer this. I think it needs to be made clear that there are different types of arranged marriages. Some are forced marriages, where the individuals don’t have a choice or any agency.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot. Then there are the more progressive arranged marriages that aren’t very different from meeting someone that has been vetted for you through a dating app, for example. From my understanding, this tends to happen more in circles of privilege, where the individuals in question possess more decision power.
In this more progressive format, parents introduce their kids to someone they feel is a good fit for them. They then give them the freedom to decide if they want to take it forward or not.
This is more similar to the way Kamala and Prashant are introduced to each other in this series.
I am glad that this show has presented a counter narrative to the concept of arranged marriage because most of the depictions of arranged marriages in western media have been shown in a negative light. This negative portrayal may be representative to the majority of arranged marriage scenarios. However, I know people who have met their partners through their parents, and it has worked out well for them.
The show’s portrayal of arranged marriage also calls into question the western way in which we assume marriage/love has to happen. I don’t want to glamorize arranged marriage, but I think it’s important to honor the stories of those who have had success with it and to shed light on the fact that not all arranged marriages are the same.
There are many females and males that struggle regarding opening up to family members when it comes to love and your character focuses on that as well.
What advice would you give to anyone struggling to tell their parents about a significant other?
I can totally relate. I hid my first boyfriend in high school from my parents for 1 year, and they only found out about him because I snuck out of the house late at night and got caught. They were infuriated about me sneaking out, but when I opened up to them about my relationship, they actually ended up being pretty understanding about it (although it took them a while to develop trust due to the nature of how they found out).
Everyone has a unique relationship with their parents, so it’s hard for me to give advice. All I can say is that your parents will always love you unconditionally, and ultimately, all they want is for you to be happy. And it will be very difficult for you to be happy if you have to constantly hide things like significant others from them. So, give them a chance, they may surprise you. And if they don’t, just give them time.
Many girls could relate to the idea of comparisons between cousins and in the series, Devi feels insecure and compares herself to her cousin Kamala.
Why do you think it is so important to touch on Eurocentric beauty standards in the series and the pressure of comparing ourselves to family members?
Kamala represents many things that, in Devi’s eyes, she needs to be in order for her mom to accept her and be proud of her. Kamala’s seemingly perfect adherence to traditional Tamil-Hindu customs is a foil to Devi who is struggling with her culture, identity, grief and adolescent challenges.
Comparisons between siblings/cousins/friends are something that manifest in unique ways in the South Asian community. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on people. Especially for women.
There is so much emphasis put on beauty in South Asian culture. Beauty is very much perceived through internalized Eurocentric standards. It’s important to highlight how this can cause extreme insecurity in young South Asian-American girl like Devi.
As a South Asian in the industry, what are some of the most challenging experiences you have had in the industry or in society in general?
I’ve been in LA for 8 years now. I’ve seen a lot of progress in terms of the types of stories being told with South Asian characters. That being said, opportunities are still limited. Aside from this series, it’s been tough to get work that feels authentic and fulfilling as a South Asian artist here in Hollywood.
I also moved to Mumbai for a couple of years to pursue work in Indian Cinema. I faced a whole different set of challenges there, like being put into the box of “NRI girls”.
I’ve been told I “don’t look Indian enough” or I’m “not right for the part”. “you’re good, but not great” or “she’s pretty, but not ready to be a series regular”. Countless other things that have been tough to digest.
My previous talent manager also fired me 1 year before I booked Never Have I Ever. He felt as if I didn’t put enough effort into my career.
All these roadblocks and challenges have been instrumental to my development as not just an actor, but as a person. I don’t see failure or rejection as something to try and avoid. I believe they have helped me to become better at my craft. As well as to be more specific about what type of artist I want to be.
Why do you think we need this kind of representation in mainstream media?
Deep down, everyone wants to feel seen and heard. We all look to the media to see ourselves, or aspects of ourselves. When we don’t have proper representation, it can make us feel like we don’t belong, or we have to be something we’re not or like we’re alone in our experiences.
Having a show like Never Have I Ever would have helped me reconcile with some of my own identity issues in high school, and I probably wouldn’t have felt as insecure as I did with no point of reference in western media. While this show may resonate with many people, many other people feel it’s not an accurate representation of their experiences.
One show alone cannot possibly represent every single experience. That is why we need more voices and platforms for other stories to be told. Additionally, people who only see stereotypes and caricatures of people from other cultures tend to see them that way in real life too. That is why #representationmatters.
You are also a choreographer! What do you enjoy most about dance and what/who inspires most of your work?
Dance was my first love and is another form of expression for me. Dancing gives me a sense of joy, freedom, confidence and ecstasy that I don’t feel doing anything else. I love the feeling of being completely in my body and owning my space through physical movement. It also puts me into a state of flow, where I can forget about the external world.
So many different dancers and artists of various backgrounds inspire me, but my biggest inspiration throughout my life has been my Kathak guru, who I’ve been learning from for 25 years now. Music is my other greatest inspiration for dance.
You’ve recently gotten married as well. Congratulations! Tell us more about your love story and your beautiful wedding day!
Thank you! I met my husband through a South Asian dating app 4 years ago. We got engaged exactly 1 year before I started shooting Never Have I Ever. I was planning our marriage while shooting (and while Kamala was trying to get out of a marriage). Our destination wedding in Cancun, Mexico happened the week after we wrapped.
It was a 3-day event. It included a welcome cocktail party on the beach, Haldi ceremony and Sangeet night. With a live Latin jazz/rock band, beach ceremony and outdoor lawn reception. We had 130 of our closest friends/family from all over the world. It was the most magical week of my life.
Do you have any future projects we can look forward to?
Hopefully many more seasons of Never Have I Ever! Aside from that, you can count on me to be a part of many more projects that shed light on the experiences of the Diaspora.
What is a daily mantra that you live by?
“You create your reality with your intentions.” – (Gary Zukav)
Richa Moorjani surely has made a difference on the big screen, from embracing differences to showcasing representation. She knows how to shed light on important issues regarding diversity and the Diaspora.
Furthermore, Richa is able to change the existing narratives that are negatively perpetuated in mainstream media and we cannot wait to see what more she has to offer!